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Sunscreen Use Linked With Vitamin D Deficiency

A culprit of vitamin D deficiency might be sunscreen which results in an insufficient exposure to the sun; chronic disease might also be an underlying cause, suggests a new study published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.

No sun on skin, no vitamin D!

Vitamin D is synthesised in the skin, a process triggered by sunlight: this is the main source of vitamin D, and sufficient sun exposure is needed to generate the required amount. Otherwise, vitamin D can also be obtained from the diet; but, it is available in only very few foods. Humans, thus, rely heavily on sunshine to get their vitamin D. However, our modern lifestyle is such that people are spending less and less time outdoors. Even when they are out, they are not getting the required sun exposure.

Sunscreen blocks sun from skin

According to the new study, vitamin D deficiency is affecting around 1 billion people all over the globe, and the main reason behind this is the use of sunscreen which prevents sun rays from reaching the skin to stimulate the production of the vitamin. While this is a protective move that shields the skin from harmful sun rays (a cause of skin cancer), it also impacts negatively on the skin’s ability to make vitamin D, explains study author, Kim Pfotenhauer from Touro University. A solution to this would be to go for healthy and moderate levels of sun exposure to boost production of vitamin D.

How much sun is prescribed?

A minimum of 5 to 30 minutes twice per week spent under the midday sun would be enough to produce healthy vitamin D levels. As Pfotenhauer points out, one does not have to go sunbathing to have one’s dose of vitamin D; rather, a walk in the sun is usually sufficient for the majority of people. But, one’s geographic location and skin pigmentation have to be taken into consideration for the specific amount of time.

Darker skin & vitamin D

Another finding entails African-American adults: 95% of them may be suffering from vitamin D deficiency. The synthesis of the vitamin varies from race to race because of the differences in skin pigmentation. Darker skin produces less vitamin D than lighter skin.

Consequences of vitamin D deficiency

Vitamin D plays an important role in the absorption of minerals like calcium, iron, and magnesium. This is why its deficiency has a great impact: for instance, a lack of it might lead to muscle weakness and bone fractures. However, more studies need to be done to ascertain the role of vitamin D in fracture risk, infections, and other medical conditions disorders.

“Science has been trying to find a one-to-one correspondence between vitamin D levels and specific diseases,” said Dr. Pfotenhauer. “Given vitamin D’s ubiquitous role in the body, I believe sufficient vitamin D is more about overall health. Our job as osteopathic physicians is to recognize those patients that need to be tested and treat them accordingly.”

Chronic diseases (e.g diabetes)

Additionally, harvesting vitamin D from food sources can be inhibited by chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, as well as conditions related to malabsorption, namely Crohn’s and celiac disease.

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